China military carries out military exercises in city just opposite Taiwan, days after elections

A People's Liberation Army unit stationed in Xiamen carried out live-firing exercises and landing drills in recent days, according to state media.
A People's Liberation Army unit stationed in Xiamen carried out live-firing exercises and landing drills in recent days, according to state media.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A Chinese military unit based in a city that lies opposite self-ruled Taiwan has carried out live-firing exercises and landing drills, state television reported just days after an independence-leaning opposition party won elections in Taiwan.

In a piece late on Wednesday (Jan 20), state television's military channel said the 31st Group Army, based in the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen, had carried out the drills in "recent days", though it did not give an exact location.

It showed amphibious armoured vehicles ploughing through the sea towards a landing spot, helicopters firing missiles at locations on shore and soldiers parachuting down from helicopters.

The report made no direct mention of the Taiwan election. China's Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taiwan expressed serious concern on Thursday (Jan 21) over the exercises.

"This is very bad news," said Mr Steve Lin, First Deputy Minister of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council. "We have been really concerned about China's military moves and threats."

He added: "We'll raise our military deployment, and at the same time we'll deal with it via reasonable dialogue with the Chinese side. After all, it's both sides' responsibility to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait."

Taiwan's Defence Ministry said it was "aware of the information", and declined further immediate comment.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province, to be brought under its control by force if necessary. Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after the Chinese civil war.

Xiamen sits opposite Taiwan, and right off Xiamen's coast is Kimnen, an island controlled by Taiwan since 1949 and until the late 1970s a place regularly shelled by China.

Since Ms Tsai Ing-wen and her Democratic Progressive Party won Taiwan's presidential and parliamentary elections last Saturday by a landslide, China has warned against any moves towards independence and that it will defend the country's sovereignty.

Ms Tsai has said she will maintain peace with China, and Chinese state-run media has also noted her pledges to maintain the "status quo" with China.

China's military, the world's largest, held live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait in September, though Taiwan's Defence Ministry described them at the time as routine.

Taiwan's military has warned that China is building two new aircraft carriers and has practised attacks on targets modelled on places in Taiwan.

China confirmed on New Year's Eve it was indeed building one new carrier, to add to its existing one.